Wednesday, May 25, 2011

MathType, or something else?

Engineers need to compose equations, often quite elaborate ones, for their publications and talks. There are a number of ways to do this, and we've seen people try and use many of these here in ECE:

  • TeX / LaTeX - a free, open source package; a long-established text markup system, requiring a processor to convert from the marked up text to the formatted output.  Available on Linux and Solaris without any GUI, can generate PDF or PostScript output for printing; preview PostScript files with ghostscript. Several implementations also exist on MacOS and Windows. I'll cover LaTeX implementations in a separate post.
  • MathType - a commercial product, an add-on to Microsoft Word. The built-in equation editor in Word is actually a simplified version of MathType. (Hint: try the MS equation editor first to see if it is adequate to what you need.) The commercial MathType package offers more symbols and equation layout types. You need a license for each PC on which MathType is used. We don't have a site license for this. Your supervisor can order single copies direct from the publisher, Design Science. Academic pricing is modest at just $57. A free 30-day trial is available (just don't try to do your whole thesis on the 30-day trial! If you need this, ask your supervisor and it should be possible to pay for a copy. If not, then check out the free alternatives in this post!)
  • Math - For those running Open Office, the open source clone of MS Office, you have the option to install this free plug-in similar to MS Equation Editor. Beware that equations entered in this way may not display or output correctly if the document is opened in MS Office itself (i.e. in Word or PowerPoint.) Bring a copy of OpenOffice with you, or export to a PDF for presentation or print output, and verify the quality and accuracy of the results.
  • One other I have not seen but that sounds worth checking out is MathCast, a free, open-source product for MS Windows. It supports both Word and Writer, and is built on open standards XHTML and MathML.
I learned about MathCast from this page on eHow:

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